“Excuse me!” Someone called, and Beagle turned to see a friendly-faced man run up to him, waving a slip of paper. “You dropped this.”
“Oh,” he said flatly, trying to hide his displeasure. It’d be rude to seem upset when the guy was just trying to be helpful; it wasn’t his fault he didn’t know Beagle had dropped the paper intentionally (well, technically he hadn’t dropped it on purpose, but he’d left a hole in his pocket for things to fall out of and this paper had been one of those things, so. Close enough). “Thank you.”
The man cocked his head to the side. “Do you… not want it back?”
“I do!” He lied, taking the paper back. “Thank you! Hope you have a nice day!”
“You too,” the man told him, giving him a little wave and then turning to leave, before turning back suddenly. “Say, did you drop that on purpose? So it’d get to your soulmate?”
“That’s so cool!” He grinned. “My soulmate and I do that too.”
“Have you found them yet?” Beagle asked.
“No, but I hope I can soon.”
“I’m sure you will,” Beagle told him.
“Aw, thanks! I’m sure you’ll find your soulmate soon, too. If you haven’t already.”
“Thanks.” Beagle smiled.
He didn’t think about the encounter again until a few days later, when he was writing his next letter to Corrun.
I met a man who uses the same system we do the other day, he wrote, and thought that was probably it. Maybe Corrun would comment on how cool it was, but if he did then that would be the matter ended.
Except instead, Corrun wrote, Oh, cool, I did too! and that started an ongoing conversation about it, and what if the men they’d met were each other’s soulmates, wouldn’t that be cool, and how many people did they think had also thought of their system—of writing letters and “losing” them, so that they could have a conversation of sorts with each other, even if there was a considerable time delay between responses.
We should meet up! Corrun had said. They’d discovered that they were in the same city, so it only made sense to do so. Beagle had agreed, and they’d picked out a time and place to meet. So Beagle was sitting in a coffee shop, waiting awkwardly for Corrun to show up, when he saw the man again.
“Hey!” he called.
The man turned. “Oh! Hello! You’re that guy who drops stuff on purpose, too, right?”
“Yeah,” Beagle said. “I don’t think I ever introduced myself; I’m Beagle.”
“I’m, uh, Florrun.”
“Nice to meet you, Florrun.” Beagle offered his hand to shake. Florrun stared at it for a moment, then took it and shook loosely. “What brings you here?”
“Oh, I usually come here,” Florrun said, then winced. “I, uh, I have to go. Sorry.”
“It’s fine.” Beagle waved him off. “See you around.”
“See you,” Florrun echoed, then hurried off.
No one else approached Beagle. He sat there for another two hours, before finally giving up and heading home.
Where were you? Beagle opened his next letter to Corrun with, then winced. That sounded accusing, and he didn’t want to give off the impression that he was upset. A little worried, and, yeah, maybe somewhat annoyed about being stood up, but plans change and things come up and while losing things on purpose to talk to your soulmate is a good strategy for the long term, it isn’t nearly as good for when things suddenly change. Beagle said as much in his letter and hoped his meaning came across like he wanted it to.
He didn’t hear back for a few days, which was longer than standard, but it wasn’t until a full week had passed with no reply that Beagle got worried.
Corrun? Are you there?
I’m getting worried; are you alright?
Can you at least lose a quarter or something so I know you’re alive?
The last one didn’t even get an embezzler like it usually would. Beagle was officially worried.
If you’re upset or mad or whatever then can you at least tell me so I know to leave you alone for a while?
A week passed and Beagle was debating writing another letter when a rolled up piece of paper appeared. It was about the size of a bookmark, edges jagged like it had been torn off from a larger piece of paper. Beagle barely noticed these details, too focused on unscrolling the paper and reading the words on it.
Sorry. I messed something up, I need some time to think about how to fix it.
Beagle read and reread, scanning for meaning that maybe was or wasn’t there, picking it apart, just reassuring himself Corrun was alright, or at least okay enough to send a note. He considered what his response should be; pressing for details? Telling him he had nothing to apologize for? Silence, to give him the time he’d requested?
In the end, he sent Okay and forced himself to wait for Corrun to reach out next.
A few weeks—nearly a month—passed in silence, until one day Beagle got a note asking for a reset on their meet. He agreed, went back to the coffee shop, and hoped he wouldn’t be stood up again.
He was mildly surprised when Florrun approached him. What were the odds he’d be there on the same days that Beagle was there?
“Hello,” he greeted.
“Hi,” Florrun said, looking nervous. “I’d like to introduce myself.”
“Ooookay.” Hadn’t he already, a few months ago?
Florrun took a breath, then stuck out his hand. “Hi, I’m Corrun. I’m your soulmate. It’s nice to meet you.”
Later, Beagle will ask why he’d given a fake name—gay panic—and why he’d gone quiet for so long (guilt over the gay panic). Later, they’ll exchange phone numbers and plan to meet again sometime soon.
For now, though, Beagle followed Florrun—Corrun?—Corrun’s lead and shook his hand, saying, “I’m Beagle. It’s nice to meet you too.”